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Man Who Helped Save Indiana Airport Dies in Plane Crash

Hatch plane crash
Photo Credit: Heather Lockwood/Petoskey News-Review

Steve Hatch
Steve Hatch

June 27, 2011 – A Fort Wayne physician who helped organize efforts to save a Fort Wayne, Indiana, airport in 2002-03 died Friday night in a plane crash in northern Michigan. Dr. Stephen Hatch, 46, and his wife, Kim, 44, perished when their Bonanza A36 impacted a garage near north of the Charlevoix Municipal Airport, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Hatch’s son, Austin, 16, survived and is in critical condition at Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, Michigan.

The three were en route to the family’s summer home in nearby Boyne Falls, Michigan, after departing Smith Field (SMD) earlier on Friday. The NTSB is investigating the cause, which occurred in moderate rain at the Charlevoix airport with winds out of the west at 10 mph, gusting up to 17 mph. Visibility was 2 miles with 200-foot ceilings.

Hatch helped form an EAA Chapter 2-led coalition called Smith Airfield Forever (SAFE), which saved Fort Wayne’s Smith Field from being closed down by the local airport authority. SAFE efforts swayed public opinion in favor of the airport, which the authority had voted to close in July 2003.
In the ensuing years, Hatch has owned Smith Field Air Service, a company that provides flight instruction and aircraft rentals at SMD.

Chapter 2 member Larry Zepp, who was chapter president during the SAFE campaign, said Hatch would leave a void in the local aviation community. “It’s a big loss for all of us,” he said Monday, noting that he active in Chapter 2 and Young Eagles. “Smith Field Air Services was thriving even in the down economy. Steve will certainly be missed.

“We’re all hoping and praying for Austin to pull through.”

Eight years ago Hatch and Austin survived a plane crash that claimed the lives of his first wife and two of their children. Austin, now 16 and the sole surviving member of his immediate family, is a talented high school basketball player in Fort Wayne, and has accepted a full athletic scholarship to play for the University of Michigan men’s basketball team after graduating from Fort Wayne’s Canterbury High School next year.

A memorial service for Stephen and Kimberly will be conducted at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Blackhawk Christian Church, 7400 E. State Blvd., Fort Wayne

EAA’s thoughts and prayers are with Austin as he struggles to recover from his injuries.

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